Battles with the enemy

The Iroquois warriors from across Lake Ontario are poised and ready to ambush the Wendat village at Thunder River. Their plan - based on misinformation - was to have all of the Wendat warriors rush off to help another village defend against an invasion that would never come. Then the attacking Iroquois warriors would easily overwhelm the poorly-defended palisades and conquer the village.

Click through the gallery below to see photos and illustrations by artist Tom McNally featured in Enemy Arrows by Will O’Hara

Excerpt from the book

As the enemy neared the village on Thunder River, their War Chief looked for signs of movement along the shore. If his plan had worked, Willow had made his way to the River of the Dawn to warn of the impending attack and a runner had been sent to the village on Thunder River for help. By now, the warriors from Thunder River were running through the forest to fight a battle at the River of the Dawn—a battle that would never take place—and the rest of the people in the Thunder River village would have retreated behind the palisade, protected only by old men and women with weapons.

First the invaders would burn down the palisade and then they would destroy the village. The enemy War Chief saw no signs of movement on the river and he told his warriors that the plan had worked. The war party approached the village from the trail overlooking the river. Trees opened onto broad cornfields stretching into the distance, and on the far side of the cornfields the warriors could see the village palisade. No one was in the fields. The enemy warriors put arrows in their bows and ran toward the main gate of the palisade to attack.

From a platform at the top of the palisade Moose, the War Chief, looked through the slats in the walls, watching the enemy invaders rush toward the village. His face was streaked with soot and he was armed with a bow and a quiver full of arrows. A pile of rocks lay on the platform by his feet. Willow stood silently beside him among the best archers in the village. Old Heron was ready with an arrow in her bow and several more in the hands of Wren, standing beside her. They squatted silently behind the barrier. On the ground below them, young boys stood beside pots of water ready to douse fires set by the enemy.

Most of the warriors waited inside the village walls at the winding entrance to the village. Brown Bat and others held long, sharp poles ready to ram through the slats in the entrance walls at any enemy warrior who tried to rush through. From where he stood, Brown Bat could see flashes of light and colour through the gaps in the palisade as the enemy charged, and he heard the familiar war cries he had learned as a child.

Lynx and other warriors stood at the entrance, ready to pursue the enemy in retreat. Everyone remained silent, waiting for the signal, as the enemy approached the village walls.

Far below on Thunder River, a blue heron waded slowly downstream through the placid waters along the shore, twisting its head slightly from side to side to locate its prey, oblivious to the surging fighters on the plateau above. When it spotted a minnow swimming upstream, it froze mid-step with one thin leg raised and then slowly, imperceptibly, lowered its leg and stood silently in a still pool of water, eyeing the minnow, watching, waiting, with its head close to the surface and its bent neck ready to lunge.

With a suddenness of a striking heron, Moose shot his head above the wall and yelled—and the village erupted in a thunderous roar from every direction. Rocks rained down from the palisade, scattering the invaders with the dull thud of stone on flesh. Arrows flew through the air from the length of the palisade wall, striking the enemy warriors as they fled in panic. As always, Old Heron’s arrows hit their targets. Shouting rose in every direction throughout the palisade. From the village high above Thunder River, fierce war cries rocked the valley.

Then out through the village gate charged Lynx with the fastest warriors in pursuit of the retreating invaders. They ran until they were within range of the attackers, stopped to shoot and then were off again.

Two enemy warriors hid in a gully close to the village. They waited until Lynx and his warriors were out of range of the protective arrows from the village—and then counterattacked, leaping over the ridge and shooting a volley of arrows. When Lynx was hit in the arm he signalled to the others to continue pursuing the main group of enemy warriors. Then he dropped his bow and fled back to the village entrance with the two invaders close behind him.

As he approached the village, he was hit again by an arrow—this time in the leg. He collapsed in the field and tried desperately to push himself through the long grass toward the village with his other leg. The two enemy warriors closed in on him with their bows, ready to finish him off.

With the speed of a beating wing Brown Bat flew out from the village gate and raced toward Lynx with his knife held high above his head.

“Run!” he yelled at the enemy. “They’re coming after us!”